Earlier this month, I had an interesting conversation with a friend and colleague about lead sources. I was asking her questions about how her company approaches lead generation. What she told me at first surprised me, but further conversations with other colleagues revealed that her company’s approach is far more typical than it should be.
Her company generates more than $200 million in revenue annually…so not a huge company but not small either. Knowing that, I assumed they must have a defined and well-executed lead generation strategy. That’s where I was wrong.
Their approach to lead generation is not what I expected. Because they have customers throughout the United States and globally, I figured they would have a robust web presence, a blog, an inbound marketing strategy and maybe even a sales development program. Nope – to all of that.
Here’s how they really approach lead generation: they don’t. They do not “generate” leads at all. Instead they get names passed on to them from vendors and they attend trade shows.
As I shared, their approach is not unique. I talked to the marketing staff of a smaller company - $50 million in revenue per year. They were desperate for leads but unwilling to change their approach. You see what they called lead generation was selecting an SIC code that seemed to fit their target market and then pulling a list of contacts from a paid service (like Hoovers or Data.com). They then hand those names over directly to their new sales people. This is not lead generation. At best, it is list creation. This smaller company also attended one trade show per year and relied on current customers for additional contacts.
Before we get any further into this discussion, let’s stop and think about what a lead really is…not a marketing qualified lead or a sales qualified lead…just a raw lead.
The most general and basic definition of a lead in the marketing and sales space is:
“An individual who has provided contact information and, in doing so, pointed toward a potential sales opportunity.”
Leads can come from multiple sources. The key part of this definition is the “who has provided contact information” part. A raw lead is someone who has in some way expressed an interest in what you do or offer. Whether they turn into a marketing or sales qualified lead is another discussion.
Going back to our examples, trade shows, lists and conversations with vendors and existing customers can produce leads. When done well, trade show marketing for example, can be very effective. In the two examples I shared, however, there wasn’t a trade show marketing approach being used. Both organizations simply attended the events because that’s what they’ve always done. They were happy if they came home with names. It didn’t matter how they got them – as long as they had names.
My point is that none of these approaches are a true lead generation approach. These two organizations are not giving people an adequate chance to raise their own hands and say I may be interested in what you do and/or sell. They are ignoring the ZMOT (Zero Moment of Truth). Neither of them have recognized or are taking advantage of the fact that the way their prospects shop has changed.
Effective lead generation is vital to organizations that want to achieve sustainable, scalable growth. If you’re not sure if your approach is more like list creation than it is lead generation, it’s time for an assessment.
Take a step back and ask yourself these questions:
- What is our ROI on the “leads” we are currently gathering? How many have turned into actual revenue?
- Do the “leads” we are generating fit our buyer personas?
- Do we truly understand who our buyer personas are?
- Do we know the path a prospect takes when considering purchasing our product or service?
- Are we generating enough “leads” to support our revenue goals? How many “leads” do need to truly support the revenue goal?
- Are we using our website to share educational and relevant information with our audience?
If you’re unable to answer these questions or your answer is no to most of them, roll up your sleeves and get to work. Start by defining your buyer personas and build from there. Once you know who you want to attract, you can begin to build a lead generation program that does just that.
A healthy sales funnel relies on adequate lead generation at the top to produce the sales numbers at the bottom that drive revenue. Simply creating lists of names will not yield the results you need to be successful. True lead generation is hard work and requires a defined, sustained approach. Investing in creating that approach will be well worth your time and energy.